Centre for Health Services Studies

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Dr Rowena Merritt BSc, D.Phil

Research Fellow



I am a Research Fellow in CHSS at the University of Kent. I am also an Affiliate Professor at the University of South Florida.

My current projects include:
• Supporting the World Health Organisation to implement the Regional Action Plan for Healthy Newborns in the Western Pacific (2014-2018). This project aims to reduce more than 200,000 unnecessary newborn deaths that occur every year in the Western Pacific region by up to 65%.
• Developing a new social marketing training program for environmental NGO’s in the Kingdom of Jordan, funded by USAID.
• Supporting in the implementation of five social marketing projects within the Kingdom of Jordan. The five projects tackle various environmental issues, from reducing littering to water and energy conservation. All the projects are design to be fully sustainable, post funding, and also aim to build local capacity, efficacy, and skills among the local communities.

My main interest is in social marketing and something termed ‘critical social marketing’ in relation to the formula milk industry. Critical social marketing involves critically investigating the impact of commercial marketing on society from a (social) marketing perspective. This information is then used to inform upstream social marketing activities such as advocacy, lobbying, policy and regulation; as well as downstream social marketing interventions designed to influence consumers or distributors.

Critical social marketing also uses this information to develop an integrated PR and marketing strategy to develop messages, campaigns and engage with the media. My research interests range widely, and I have worked on projects covering the main public health priority areas, including: obesity, breastfeeding, cancer, HIV/STI prevention, mental health, alcohol and drug misuse and smoking. In more recent years, I have focused upon sexual and maternal health, and have been commissioned to work on a growing number of international projects in developing countries (funded by aid agencies, including DFID, WHO and USAID). Most recently I have worked with the Chinese University of Hong Kong to help develop their breastfeeding strategy and also on a number of HIV prevention projects across China and South East Asia.

I joined the University of Kent in 2013. I previously worked as part of the public health team in the Department of Health where I managed the implementation of Ambitions for Health, the Department of Health’s national social marketing strategy.

In 2006 I was awarded my PhD by the University of Oxford. My thesis explored the use of social marketing to improve outcomes for patients with unipolar depression, by improving compliance with both psychological and pharmaceutical treatments. I received a BSc (Honours) in Business Studies from Imperial College for my first degree.

I am the Co-Founder of The Pasifika Collective, a non-profit organisation which helps Pacific Island countries develop sustainable solutions to problems caused by human behaviour such as water pollution, habitat loss and poor community health. We work to build local capacity in the use of evidence-based social marketing approaches to:
• Improve access to water and sanitation
• Reduce water and marine pollution
• Preserve habitat and biodiversity
• Improve the management of natural resources
• Respond to natural disasters and the impacts of climate change
• Strengthen coastal resilience
• Improve health and wellbeing of communities.


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Also view these in the Kent Academic Repository

Merritt, R. K., Hotham, S. and Schrag, A. (2023) 'Support needs in Carers of People with Parkinson's from early to later stages: A qualitative study with 36 carers in 11 European countries', Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry and Neurology.
Kraemer, K., Beesabathuni, K., Askari, S., Khondker, R., Khan, T. U., Rahman, M., Gibson, S., Merritt, R. K., Bajoria, M., Lingala, S. and others. (2023) 'Knowledge, Attitudes and Practices of Pregnant Women and Healthcare Providers in Bangladesh regarding Multivitamin Supplements during Pregnancy', Healthcare. MDPI. doi: 10.3390/healthcare11050713.
Merritt, R. K., Eida, T. J., Safon, C. and Kendall, S. (2023) 'Print media coverage of breastfeeding in Great Britain: positive or negative?', Maternal and Child Nutrition. Wiley. doi: 10.1111/mcn.13458.
Merritt, R. K., Kendall, S., Eida, T. J., Dykes, F. and Perez-Escamilla, R. (2022) 'Scaling up breastfeeding in England through the Becoming Breastfeeding Friendly initiative (BBF)', Maternal and Child Nutrition. Wiley. doi: 10.1111/mcn.13443.
Dietrich, T., Hurley, E., Carins, J., Kassirer, J., Rundle-Thiele, S., Palmatier, R. W., Merritt, R. K., Weaven, S. K. and Lee, N. (2022) '50 years of social marketing: seeding solutions for the future', European Journal of Marketing. Emerald. doi: 10.1108/EJM-06-2021-0447.
Merritt, R., Tshering, P. and Suggs, L. (2021) 'To Improve Nutrition and Healthy Eating, We Need to Generate Demand', International Journal of Public Health. doi: 10.3389/ijph.2021.1604390.
Merritt, R. K., de Groot, J., Almajali, L. and Patel, N. (2021) 'Using Community-Based Prevention Marketing to Generate Demand for Healthy Diets in Jordan', Nutrients. doi: 10.3390/nu13093068.
Gadsby, E., Hotham, S., Eida, T., Lawrence, C. and Merritt, R. (2020) 'Impact of a community-based pilot intervention to tackle childhood obesity: a "whole-system approach" case study', BMC Public Health. BMC. doi: 10.1186/s12889-020-09694-2.
Merritt, R. K., Vogel, M. and Ladbury, P. (2019) 'A Qualitative Study Exploring Healthy Eating and Physical Activity in Families with Young Children', Interdisciplinary Journal of Health Sciences. American Research Institute for Policy Development, pp. 8-13. doi: 10.18192/riss-ijhs.v9i1.2289.
Schrag, A., Zhelev, S., Hotham, S., Merritt, R. K., Khan, K. and Graham, L. (2019) 'Heterogeneity in progression of prodromal features in Parkinson's disease', Parkinsonism & Related Disorders. Elsevier, pp. 275-279. doi: 10.1016/j.parkreldis.2019.05.013.
Merritt, R. K., Vogel, M., Ladbury, P. and Johnson, S. M. (2019) 'A qualitative study to explore fathers' attitudes towards breastfeeding in South West England', Primary Health Care Research & Development. Cambridge University Press. doi: 10.1017/S1463423618000877.
Merritt, R. K., Hotham, S., Graham, L. and Schrag, A. (2018) 'The subjective experience of Parkinson's disease: a qualitative study in 60 people with mild to moderate Parkinson's in 11 European countries', European Journal of Person Centered Healthcare. European Journal of Person Centered Healthcare. doi: 10.5750/ejpch.v6i3.1536.
Schrag, A., Khan, K., Hotham, S., Merritt, R., Rascol, O. and Graham, L. (2018) 'Experience of care for Parkinson's disease in European countries: A survey by the European Parkinson's Disease Association', European Journal of Neurology. Wiley, pp. 1410-e120. doi: 10.1111/ene.13738.
Schrag, A., Modi, S., Hotham, S., Merritt, R., Khan, K. and Graham, L. (2018) 'Patient experiences of receiving a diagnosis of Parkinsons's disease', Journal of Neurology. Springer, pp. 1151-1157. doi: 10.1007/s00415-018-8817-8.
Hashem, F. and Merritt, R. K. (2018) 'Supporting patients self-managing respiratory health: a qualitative study on the impact of the Breathe Easy voluntary group network', European Respiratory Journal. European Respiratory Society, pp. 1-11. doi: 10.1183/23120541.00076-2017.
Merritt, R., Kamin, T., Hussenöder, F. and Huibregtsen, J. (2017) 'The History of Social Marketing in Europe: The Story So Far', Social Marketing Quarterly. SAGE, pp. 291-301. doi: 10.1177/1524500417732771.
Book sections
Merritt, R. K., Hafeez-ur-Rehman, H. and Patel, N. (2022) 'Marketing and the UN SGDs', in Kubacki, K., Parker, L., Domegan, C., and Brennan, L. (eds) The Routledge Companion to Marketing and Society. Routledge. doi: 10.4324/9781003028079.
Merritt, R. K. (2021) 'National Social Marketing Centre, UK', in Fourali, C. and French, J. (eds) The Palgrave Encyclopedia of Social Marketing. Palgrave Macmillan. doi: 10.1007/978-3-030-14449-4_32-1.
Merritt, R. K. (2018) 'Breastfeeding and breast milk - From biochemistry to impact', in Breastfeeding and breast milk - From biochemistry to impact. Georg Thieme Varlag KG.
Kendall, S., Eida, T. J. and Merritt, R. K. (2019) Becoming Breastfeeding Friendly Scotland: report. Scottish Government. Available at: https://www.gov.scot/publications/becoming-breastfeeding-friendly-scotland-report/pages/3/.
Eida, T. J., Kendall, S. and Merritt, R. K. (2019) Becoming Breastfeeding Friendly Wales infographic. Public Health Wales.
Kendall, S., Eida, T. J. and Merritt, R. K. (2019) Becoming Breastfeeding Friendly (BBF) Wales Recommendations Briefing Report. Public Health Wales.
Conference or workshop items
Merritt, R. K. (2021) 'Can we make social marketing more nimble?', in. Social Marketing: A Behavioural Change Rebel Turning 50.
Eida, T. J., Kendall, S. and Merritt, R. K. (2018) 'Becoming Breastfeeding Friendly in Britain Scaling up Breastfeeding in Wales, Scotland and England', in. Institute of Health Visiting conference.
Eida, T. J., Gadsby, E. W., Hotham, S. and Merritt, R. K. (2017) 'Go Golborne Action Learning Event: Partner survey and interviews', in. Action Learning Event.
Showing 25 of 51 total publications in KAR. [See all in KAR]
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Social marketing, evidence-based social marketing approaches, critical social marketing, public health, qualitative research

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My motivation for mentoring

I have been a Research Fellow in CHSS since 2013. I work part-time at CHSS and run my own consultancy business with the rest of my time.  I specialise in social marketing and behaviour change. In 2006, I completed my D.Phil in social marketing from the University of Oxford. After graduation, I went to work at the Department of Health England and was part of the small team that set-up the National Social Marketing Centre.
Whilst working at the Department of Health, I started to do more international projects (funded by DFID) and in 2010 I set up my own consultancy. Now I mainly do work for UN organisations, including WHO and WFP, specialising in achieving behaviour change to improve maternal and new-born outcomes and sexual health. Over the past ten years I have worked in over 15 countries, delivering behavioural change programmes at local and national levels. As part of this work, I do a lot of capacity building and mentoring of local UN staff.
I am also an Affiliate Professor at the University of South Florida and Chair their social marketing conference and teach their online advanced social marketing course.
I understand what it is like to try and juggle a career with bringing up a family, and the pressures of trying to deliver projects on the ground in very difficult environments.

Apply for mentorship

If you would like me to be your mentor, please fill in the mentor application form here.

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Last Updated: 28/09/2020